Developing transformational curriculum to educate social work students about Indigenous peoples and Indigenous knowledge
Date of Paper/Work
Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
Type of Paper/Work
Laurel N. Bidwell
While efforts to recruit Indigenous social work students must be continued, social work educators need to ensure that non-Indigenous social work students are learning about the history, culture, and wisdom of Indigenous peoples. Additionally, social work students need to become aware of the impact the social work profession has had on this population. This awareness and understanding will help social workers practice from a place of being an ally and will assist in altering the views many Indigenous people have about social work. There are three products in this banded dissertation that focus on engaging social work educators in a dialogue regarding how to teach social work students about Indigenous peoples in a culturally sensitive manner. The conceptual framework that guides this scholarship agenda is a Mi’kmaq concept called “two-eyed seeing”. This means one eye sees the strengths and contributions of Indigenous knowledge, the other sees the strengths and contributions of Western knowledge, and merging the two is beneficial.
The first product in the banded dissertation includes slides and a summary of a conference presentation that took place at the National Indigenous Social Work Conference in October of 2016 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. This presentation reviews the pedagogies of service learning and cultural immersion; and introduces the concept of cultural service immersion. Service learning connects students with a community where the student provides a service while integrating classroom knowledge and leadership skills. Cultural immersion engages students in a culture different from their own for an extended period of time. Cultural service immersion blends both service learning and cultural immersion. The second product explores the use of cultural service immersion with Indigenous people as a transformational learning method. Not only is it proposed that cultural sensitivity and humility will increase among social work students engaged in cultural service immersion but it is expected that through learning about the history of Indigenous peoples, the profession of social works impact on Indigenous peoples, and the traditions and knowledge of Indigenous peoples social work students will be better prepared to engage in a process of allyship. The final banded dissertation product is a qualitative phenomenological research study that explores the lives of seven Indigenous recipients of social work services. This study provides social work educators insight about curriculum content that can further students’ knowledge and understanding about the history of Indigenous peoples. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of cultural humility and offers approaches that can lead to healing the relationship between the social work profession and Indigenous peoples.
This banded dissertation highlights the intersections of cultural service immersion with Indigenous cultures and knowledge. Themes uncovered included: the importance for social work students to know the historical trauma Indigenous people have experienced, the need for students to be aware of stereotypes and prejudices, and for students to honor and respect Indigenous knowledge and ways of healing. What’s more, this dissertation stresses the need for western academics to incorporate Indigenous methods when teaching about Indigenous peoples. This can be done by allowing Elders to teach in the classroom and by social work educators taking students into the community in order. Lastly, this banded dissertation emphasizes the need for the social work profession to repair its relationship with Indigenous peoples. Meaningful relationships and allyship can blossom when social work students work alongside Indigenous peoples, while accomplishing a common goal. Keywords:
cultural immersion, service learning, social work education, Indigenous, Native American, curriculum development
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Thibeault, Deborah, "Developing transformational curriculum to educate social work students about Indigenous peoples and Indigenous knowledge" (2018). Doctor of Social Work Banded Dissertation. 33.